BIDEN LEADS IN NEVADA. A new Emerson College poll finds Joe Biden with a lead in the Democratic primary in Nevada with 30%, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 22% and Bernie Sanders at 19%. No other candidate clears 10%.
THE NYT/SIENA POLLS PROVIDE A COLD WATER. “Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election,” according to a set of new surveys from New York Times Upshot and Siena College.
“Across the six closest states that went Republican in 2016, he trails Joe Biden by an average of two points among registered voters but stays within the margin of error.”
“Mr. Trump leads Elizabeth Warren by two points among registered voters, the same margin as his win over Hillary Clinton in these states three years ago.”
MORE COLDWATER: DEMS TRAIL TRUMP IN TEXAS. “None of the top Democrats seeking the presidential nomination would beat President Donald Trump in Texas in an election held today — and neither would either of the Texas candidates in that race,” according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
“Joe Biden is running 7 percentage points behind Trump in Texas, as is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Sen. Bernie Sanders falls 5 percentage points short in a head-to-head with the president among Texas voters.”
President Donald Trump will head to Kentucky to try to dig out the unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who is in the race of his life against state Attorney General Andy Beshear. According to the Washington Post, Bevin has molded himself into a Trump doppelgänger, prompting fights with local teachers’ unions and state lawmakers.
Republicans worry that a Bevin loss may spark broader concerns about the party’s liability in 2020. However, Beshear’s lead has narrowed in recent weeks, as the impeachment inquiry got underway and polarization skyrocketed.
Lexington Herald Leader: “Only about three of every 10 registered voters in Kentucky will take time to vote Tuesday to elect Kentucky’s governor for the next four years, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday.”
THE NEXT FRONT IN THE CULTURE WAR. New York Times: “From the 12th floor of a glass office tower in the Washington suburbs, a campaign to sway the governor’s race in Kentucky on Tuesday is being waged with an alarmist claim that has little to do with the race itself: If Democrats have their way, soon boys will be able to compete against girls in school sports.”
“This scenario, presented in a pair of ads that are appearing on computer screens and smartphones across Kentucky, is the work of a little-known group funded by anonymous donors called the American Principles Project, which in recent years has focused on fighting more familiar clashes in the culture wars over same-sex marriage and abortion rights.”
“The group is limiting its work to Kentucky for now, but strategists say it has bigger ambitions. It is effectively running a pilot program for the 2020 election that will help it determine how it could use the debate over transgender rights to rally conservative voters in support of President Trump.”
WARREN AND SANDERS HIGHLIGHT THEIR DIFFERENCES. “Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, rivals for the affections of the Democratic Party’s left wing, are increasingly making careful but unmistakable efforts to distinguish themselves from each other as the primary heads toward its first vote in three months,” the Washington Post reports.
WALL STREET UPGRADES TO DEFCON 2 OVER WARREN. New York Times: “From corporate boardrooms to breakfast meetings, investor conferences to charity galas, Ms. Warren’s rise in the Democratic primary polls is rattling bankers, investors and their affluent clients, who see in the Massachusetts senator a formidable opponent who could damage not only their industry but their way of life.”
“Interviews with more than two dozen hedge-fund managers, private-equity and bank officials, analysts and lobbyists made clear that Ms. Warren has stirred more alarm than any other Democratic candidate. (Senator Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a socialist, is also feared, but is considered less likely to capture the nomination.)”
Said Democratic donor Steven Rattner: “Everyone is nervous. What scares the hell out of me is the way she would fundamentally change our free-enterprise system.”
MISSISSIPPI ELECTORAL COLLEGE LAW MAY BE STRUCK DOWN IF IT AFFECTS TODAY’S ELECTION. On Friday, a federal district court declined to grant a preliminary injunction blocking a provision of Mississippi’s 1890 Jim Crow constitution that could prevent Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood from becoming governor even if he wins more votes than Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday. However, the judge hearing the case, Daniel Jordan, sent a strong signal that he would bar the law if it comes into play after the election.
The provision in question requires candidates for statewide office to win both a majority of the popular vote and a majority of state House districts; if no one does, the Republican-controlled House would pick the winner. Because Republicans aggressively gerrymandered those districts to disfavor Democrats, Hood has little chance of carrying a majority of House seats. That would allow the House to install Reeves as governor even if Hood wins the most votes.
Jordan explained that he would not enjoin the law in advance of Election Day because no one has yet been irreparably harmed by it. In addition, with the election just days away, he said there’s insufficient time for election officials to craft any sort of remedy on their own.
However, Jordan also concluded that the plaintiffs are “right” that requiring candidates to win a majority of state House districts violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of “one person, one vote.” Therefore, if Hood wins a majority of the vote but fails to win enough House districts, there’s a good chance that Jordan would step in to prevent Mississippi’s constitutional provision from being enforced. It’s not clear what the court would do, though, if Hood wins a plurality rather than a majority of the popular vote.
BIDEN SAYS HE DOESN’T NEED TO WIN IOWA. Which means he knows he probably won’t win Iowa. Wall Street Journal: “The Biden team is playing down his prospects in Iowa, noting that his broad support among black voters in particular will help him in places like South Carolina, which votes at the end of February.” Said Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz: “I think we’re the only ones who don’t have to win Iowa, honestly, because our strength is the fact that we have a broad and diverse coalition.”
DEMS AVOID TRUMP ATTACKS ON EACH OTHER. Politico: “To listen to 2020 Democrats, some of the most volatile critiques of the top three polling candidates aren’t worthy of public debate — even though Trump and GOP operatives have made clear they’d hammer them on those issues during the general election.”
“Some Democrats fear the crowded field is doing the eventual nominee a disservice by tiptoeing around their possible vulnerabilities while the GOP loads torpedoes into the tubes. It’s a dynamic reminiscent of the 2016 Democratic primary, when Democrats — including primary candidate Bernie Sanders — downplayed the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails, only to confront a vicious general election onslaught on those very questions from Donald Trump.”
PROGRESSIVE ORG PLANS ANTI-TRUMP DIGITAL CAMPAIGN. Good. “A progressive organization is plunging itself into the presidential campaign, unveiling plans to spend $75 million on digital advertising to counter President Trump’s early spending advantage in key 2020 battleground states,” the New York Times reports.
“The effort, by a nonprofit group called Acronym and an affiliated political action committee, is an outgrowth of growing concern by some Democratic officials that Mr. Trump could build an insurmountable edge in those key states through massive early advertising efforts. Mr. Trump has spent more than $26 million so far nationally just on Facebook and Google, more than the four top-polling Democrats — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg — have spent in total on those platforms.”
HOW TRUMP CAN REGAIN INDEPENDENTS. Matthew Continetti: “Mr. Trump has two ways he could regain his standing among independents and win over undecided voters. He can pray that Democrats nominate a candidate whose personality and policies independents find more unappealing than his own. Or he can modify the way he comports himself in public. It is telling that the least likely option is the one within Mr. Trump’s control.”